Re-think ‘Fake It Till You Make It’

“Fake it till you make it.”  I’ve heard this saying a million times.  And for most of my life I tried to fake it, waiting for that happy day when I could get up in the morning and say, “I made it!”  And even though I am in a much better frame of mind now than I was for most of my life, I don’t think that the ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude helped me at all.

I’m not saying its bad advice. It may be good advice for a rational mind.  A confident person knows it means you don’t have to let your emotions rule you, that whatever your circumstances are, everything will be okay eventually, and you can smile when you don’t feel like it because it will help make you feel better.

But to my broken, irrational, emotional mind, ‘fake it till you make it’ meant I must pretend I am okay so no one else sees the crazy inside me.  So, I pretended every day.  I put on a smile when I felt like a vacuum inside.  I kept hoping to get to a place where I felt real; authentic.  The trouble is, it is hard to be authentic when you are faking it.

I put all my energies into thinking about the size of my body because I thought that being authentic meant being thin. But as my body size changed over the years, whether big or small, I still had that same feeling that I couldn’t be the real me.  No one would want to know the real me because the real me was not a good person.

Then one day I realized that nothing was going to be different if I kept faking it.  I had to change, but wasn’t sure how to begin.  It was about this time I began attending a small church in our neighborhood.  And I’m not saying you must go to church to learn how to be authentic, but for me the timing was right.  I heard something there that resonated with me and started a transformation in my thinking.

The pastor called all the little children to come around him and sit. Then he asked them this question. “What do you have to do to earn Gods love?” All the kids raised their hands and gave answers like, -be good, -obey your parents, or-don’t hit your little brother. The pastor encouraged them and told them all these things were very good, but he was looking for another answer. One little boy in the back of the group didn’t raise his hand, but the pastor called on him anyway. “Jimmy, what do you think?” Jimmy looked at all the other kids like he was trying to think of an answer that wasn’t already mentioned. Finally, he scrunched up his face and asked, “Nothing?”  The pastor bellowed, “Yes, Jimmy, that’s exactly right. You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love, you have it now, you had it when you were born, you will have it for the rest of your life.”

I always heard that God loved me, but I believed I had to work very hard to earn that love; to be good enough.  The trouble was, I missed the mark somehow.  I just never was good enough for some reason. I held myself responsible for how others thought about me and extended that to God.

When I finally realized that I was valuable just the way I was, there was relief.  It wasn’t like a big rush of liberation, it was more like a pinprick that eased a little pressure.  And each day, a little more tension was released until I truly believed in my goodness.  And with a true belief in my value, I didn’t have to fake it anymore.

Sometimes, now, I smile when I am sad, but not to fake it or hide my sorrow from others. I smile because I know it will help ease my pain and may even help someone else.  And now, I do most things because I want to; not because I force myself to.

Knowing my value allows me to function at a higher level.  It allows my body and mind to be more in sync.  I can acknowledge my feelings instead of hiding them or being ashamed of them, and I know my value is the same, regardless of my emotions, body size, or actions.

I used to think that people who thought they were valuable were arrogant.  But arrogance comes from thinking we have achieved our value only because of our outstanding merits. The truth is, there is nothing we can do, or fail to do, that will affect our value.

We can call this inherent value God’s love or call it our place in the universe.  But the knowledge and acceptance of it takes the need to ‘fake it’ away, and helps us be authentic.

Peace Ya’ll

You don’t have to fake anything.  You are already valuable.

 

There’s More Than Just Accepting The Past

Someone once wrote me that she was sorry I shared her “sorted history” of dieting and body image issues. It reminded me of someone saying ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ at a funeral. But this got me thinking, am I sorry for my past? Was my past a loss? How much of my past still haunts me?

I used to regret my past because I thought I was broken in some way. My past was proof I was a bad person or that I ended up where I am because of my failures or the failures of others. But I don’t think that way anymore.

Growing up, I had a sense that something was not right, like I didn’t fit in. I was adopted at 10 days old, and raised as an only child. My adoptive parents were both alcoholics, with my dad being in and out of rehab most of my early childhood and my mom drinking to cope. My dad was happy-go-lucky and let my verbally abusive mom dominate. We were in a low to middle socioeconomic class and my parents were old enough to be my grandparents. They sent me to a Catholic grade school where the nuns were cold and unforgiving.

I had this litany of complaints about my childhood, regretting everything that happened to me and mulling it over and over and asking God, “Why me?” I felt victimized by my parents, the nuns, and my birth mother. I had the story down pat and would tell anyone who would listen how I wished things could have been different, if only I wasn’t adopted, if only my mom treated me better, if only…..

One day I was talking to my parish priest at a social gathering, and I began to tell him (not for the first time) how I wished my life as a child had been different. Right in the middle of my speech he excused himself and walked away. I was stunned. But it occurred to me that talking about what I wish the past would have been didn’t make any sense, and no one really wanted to hear it. The past was part of who I was, but it didn’t have anything to do with what was happening at this point in my life. I was the one keeping it alive.

I now see my past as being necessary to get me to where I am today. After all, if things had been different in any way, would I have the children I have now? Would I have met my husband? Would I be any happier? Would my life be any better? There is no way to know.

When we regret the past, we automatically think that if it had been different then, things would be better now. This gives us an excuse to not make things better now. The truth is, even if we had an idyllic past, there is no way of knowing that any aspect of our lives would be better than it is now. This is an assumption we make; a guess. But there is no proof. And if there is no proof that anything would be better, it’s not logical to waste time lamenting the past. This just keeps us stalled in an unhappy ‘now.’

How did I come to terms with my past?

I began with changing my perspective. I took myself out of the equation and observed it as an outsider. I pretended that my past had a physical dimension, like a kitchen table. I had only been looking at it from one angle.  I felt like a plate sitting on the top of the table. I could only see what was happening around me.  And back then, I did what plates do; I took everything that was laid on me and didn’t ask any questions.

I realized that if I was looking into the past, I didn’t have to be the plate any more. I could just be me, as I am now, and look at everything.  I crawled up under the table and looked at the underside. I inspected the legs that held it up and examined the entire structure. I made new conclusions about its existence.  I no longer felt like the plate or the victim or at fault.

After that, I began to remember things a little better. It’s not that my memories were faulty, it’s that they were not complete. I remember all the bad things because it’s easy to do that. It’s a survival mechanism.  We easily recall the bad stuff so we can stay away from it in the future. The problem is, when we do this, we forget the okay stuff, and even the good stuff.  But, if we think hard enough, we can find those good times that were overlooked.

So, here’s the new version of my past. It’s the same as before, only from a new perspective.

My biological mom was only 18 years old, with no education or money, when she got pregnant with me. No surprise that I was put up for adoption. My adoptive parents were madly in love with each other and tried many years, but could not conceive a child of their own. I was the answer to their prayers. My dad drank a lot, but he worked hard to put a roof over our head. I was a typical ‘daddy’s little girl’ and loved him lots. My mom and I weren’t as close, but she was a great cook and housekeeper. She worked part time cleaning other people’s houses to give me piano lessons and send me to a private Catholic school. A few nuns were mean to me, but most of them and the other teachers were supportive and taught me well. When I was little, my mom and dad took me camping and fishing at the shore most weekends. My adoptive parents tried hard to make a good life for me.

This change in thinking about my past did not come about in a day, a month, or even a year. I have spent my life trying to reconcile it. But I now realize that by just trying to accept my past, I limited myself. I must embrace my past to be happy about who I am now. I must be content that things happened just the way they did, or I will always harbor a shadow of regret.

I have no regrets now.

For info on how to create a binge-free life – click here

 

“My past has no hold over me unless I let it.”

IMG_6935 (2)

 

How To Surrender… And Win

After yo-yo dieting and binge eating most of your adult life, eating whatever you want may seem impossible.  When I first began my binge free journey,  I told myself I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted.  I took all restrictions off food.  In case you are wondering, I did not picture myself eating ten thousand calories worth of chocolate cake every day and not gaining a pound, but I did picture myself eating meals I liked and food I wanted, including chocolate cake, with no restrictions on type of food or portion sizes.

Somehow, I knew this was the right thing to do.  I was overeating at almost every meal and bingeing in times of stress. I  know, it doesn’t make sense.  If you want to stop eating too much, you should be able to say to yourself, “Stop eating so much.”  And poof…you stop eating so much.  I tried this for 25 years and it never worked, and it never will work, so why do we keep doing it?  I finally gave up dieting to save my sanity and maybe even my life.

When I say the words ‘gave up,’ I don’t mean I considered myself a failure and started eating because I’ll never lose weight anyway or that food defeated me.  It’s quite the opposite.  I took control of my eating by allowing myself to eat what I thought my body wanted at any given time.  Instead of succumbing to the food I used to restrict, I now eat my fill and it doesn’t rule me anymore.

I didn’t throw all my knowledge about nutrition out the window, but I did buy and eat foods I never allowed myself to eat in the past.  It seems ironic that I eat less of those foods now than when they were restricted.

When you restrict food or even have thoughts of not eating in the future, like starting a diet on Monday, your body gets a stress signal – ‘food will be scarce.’  So, it encourages you, rather compels, you to eat more now.  How many ‘last suppers’ have you had?  If you do happen to thwart the compulsion and reduce your calories for any period of time, your body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy.  At some point, you will give in to hunger for more calories and go off your diet, which causes you to feel guilty and eat more.  There you are, back in the vicious cycle.

To stop this cycle forever is not difficult if you really want to do it.  The hardest part is to be faithful to it.  As with any change, you must make a concerted effort to stick with the program.  This means eating cookies when you have a taste for them and not thinking of ways to make up for it later.  It means telling yourself you can still eat whatever you want the next time you are hungry, regardless of what or how much you just ate.  It means taking the guilt out of the eating process entirely.

Once you get used to this process and quit second guessing your decision to not diet, your body and your psyche will stop being at odds with each other.  And once they get on the same side, you will feel a peace that you may have not experienced in a long time.

For tips on Motivation click here.

“I used to ask the question -Why do I always do stuff that makes me feel guilty? When the real question is -Why do I feel guilty for the stuff I do?” MD

sunrise watercolor

Binge Free – The Beginning

I used to be hungry all the time. My hunger wasn’t about food, but I used food to try to satisfy it. Nothing filled it up. No matter how much food I stuffed down my throat, there was no satisfaction, nothing to tell me that I’d had enough. It’s like when a light switch doesn’t work and you want to go to sleep, but can’t turn off the bright light. A pathway in my brain said, Feed me, but never switched off to say, Ok, that’s enough.  Another part of me would say, Stop eating, but it was a condemning voice that said..

“You are such an idiot, why do you do this to yourself, you are such a loser.”

Placeholder Image

 

I ate even more to quell that voice. The more I ate, the guiltier I felt.  Still hungry, I told myself, I’ll just eat everything I want now and make up for the extra calories tomorrow by eating less or exercising more.  That is what I wanted to do, but never did, at least not for more than a few days.

For years, I would get home from work and stand in my pantry and devour everything I could find until I felt so sick I had to vomit to get some relief.  When I didn’t vomit, I laid on my bed and berated myself and swore that tomorrow I would eat properly.  Sometimes I looked at diets or food plans online, printing lists of acceptable foods to eat. With raised spirits, I told myself, I can do this!  I’d get up in the morning with a new outlook, drink an instant breakfast, eat salad for lunch and make plans for a healthy dinner.  All the while counting those nasty little calories.  But when I got home, I would overeat or binge and start the ‘guilt, self-loathing’ cycle all over again.

One day I realized that the voice accusing me and telling me I was a malfunctioning person could be wrong.  Instead of my whole persona being flawed, maybe my thinking was just incorrect. So I thought….

Maybe the thoughts I have about being defective don’t really mean that I am defective. Maybe the thoughts are flawed. Having flawed thoughts does not make me a flawed person. I feel like I am defective down to the core of my being most of the time. But just because I feel a certain way doesn’t make me that way. I feel like I don’t fit in with most ‘normal people’. But what if I’m wrong about that? Maybe I am really a good person and I’m just telling myself I am bad because of all the crap I went through as a kid or because my brain is shaped a certain way or my DNA has an extra chromosome or some other reason I don’t even know of.  Maybe I have just convinced myself that I am different from ‘normal people’, especially when it comes to eating. And maybe I don’t feel like I fit in with others because I am telling myself I don’t fit in. And maybe I can change those thoughts. Maybe?

With this new idea, I realized that breaking out of the spiral of overeating-binging-loathing-dieting-overeating did not have to be about changing my eating behavior.  To break a cycle, only one thing needs to be changed, and who said it has to be your eating behavior?  A big part of the binge eating cycle is guilt and self loathing associated with overeating. My thinking continued…

 “What if I could change my thoughts instead of my eating behavior? Eating does not HAVE to make me feel guilty. I choose to feel guilty when I eat too much or eat a forbidden food. And if I have a choice to feel guilty, I also have the choice to NOT feel guilty. I don’t have to berate myself.”

I thought, like most Americans, that if I could diet and lose weight, I would be healthier and happier.  It makes sense; dieting leads to weight loss which leads to feeling good about myself which leads to no bingeing.  The trouble was, it never worked that way for me.  I would drop a few pounds, start feeling good about losing weight, then eat a donut in a weak moment and end up sick from raiding the refrigerator.  Then on to a bingeing episode which could last months. I asked myself…

“What if I could get out of this cycle by stopping the guilt and self-loathing part instead of trying to diet or change my eating behavior? How would this work?”

I stopped binging the very first day I began to think and say out loud, the thoughts below. Stopping bingeing is the easy part.  Learning how to live a better life and accept who you are takes more work.  But it is worth it. And you can do it!

I will not feel guilty for any eating behavior, that includes overeating and bingeing.
• I will not feel guilty eating any type of food. All foods are good.
• I will not think about restricting any food.
• I can eat what I want today, later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for the rest of my life.
• I never have to diet or restrict food again.
• I will not judge myself based on my body size or my eating.
• I will eat what I want, when I want, in the amount I want.
• I will not make myself eat anything I do not want.
• No matter what I eat, I will always plan on still eating whatever I want at the next meal or the next time I want food.
• I will not plan to restrict food or exercise to ‘make up’ for eating now.
• If I eat too much and become uncomfortable, I will take note how it made me feel physically, but I will not berate myself or feel guilty or bad for eating.
• I will stop using words like fattening, sinful or decadent in regard to food.
• I will not count calories or macros or fat grams or anything else associated with controlling my food intake.

It took me about a year to understand that eating like this was more important than losing weight.   Losing weight has always been my main focus.  And to that end, I tried to eat what someone else said I should eat by following diets and food plans.  But when I began to trust my body and eat what I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start to repair itself and begin wanting healthier foods naturally.

I gained a few pounds at first, but after a year, my weight is inching down. The weight doesn’t matter that much, though.  What matters is, after many years of bingeing and restricting, I now eat whatever I want and I don’t eat anything I don’t want.  I am strong and healthy and my body is adjusting its weight to reflect that.  I don’t force myself to eat a healthy meal to get some dessert.  If I want dessert only, I eat the dessert.  I put no restrictions on food or eating.  My meals are typically healthier than they have ever been, not because I force myself to eat well, but because I naturally want to eat well.  Sometimes I still have cravings, but usually they are for things like chef salad, ice-cold watermelon, or hot homemade soup.

Are you ready to be binge free? Take Action.

If I did this, you can too!

“I don’t need to compare myself to others.  The space I occupy on this earth is just right for me.  No one else can fit into it and I cannot fit into anyone else’s space.  I will strive to be my best, but will always appreciate who I am and where I am right now.” MD

post